Are Crystals Ethically Sourced?

Crystals can come with a deep and dark history, one that is commonly overlooked. As a wellness craze, it can be hard for us to come to terms with the fact it could be hurting more people than it’s helping.

Crystal mining has many ethicality problems; from child and slave labour, deforestation, encouraging poverty, and funding regimes like the Taliban (which is why we don't stock Lapis Lazuli). Many crystal shops and suppliers will say that their crystals are ethically sourced, but ‘ethical sourcing’ is completely unmonitored and subjective. Ethical sourcing could be anything, there are no qualifications or tests that a supplier must go through in order to promote that they are ethically sourced. At Conscious Crystals, we say that our pieces are consciously sourced. We do as much as we can to directly support small families and businesses, but we cannot be there every step of the way from mining to shipment, for our different suppliers all around the world, as much as we wish we could be. Trust is built through photographs and videos of the mining, tumbling and polishing processes. We are conscious of our impact on communities, pay above market rates and make sure every one of them is cared for. 

Dangerous Moldavite Mining

One particular conflict stone is Moldavite, a tektite that was created when an asteroid hit earth and fused with minerals 15 million years ago in what is now the Czech Republic.

Dangerous Moldavite Mining Conditions

Moldavite Mine in Czech Republic, 2014. Photo from Tower Crystals; Moldavite Mining.

Crystal mining has the capability to be extremely problematic. Illegal and unethical mining often creates a myriad of issues, like the holes in the ground seen above. Not only are the mining conditions dangerous, but holes like these are left open by illegal miners. These holes capture and kill wildlife and promote deforestation. (1)

There are many mines that not only contribute to the climate crisis, but exploit its workers to harsh environments and dangerous situations that often end in injury and death.


Deaths, Disasters and Child Labour in Myanmar.

One of the worst is Myanmar’s Hpakant township where there have been no licensed mines since 2020, but extraction of crystals and minerals continues. These operations are not regulated, this endemic corruption meaning that the workers are barely getting paid. Kachin State has been the source for ethnic conflict for over 70 years.

On February 28th 2022, a landslide of earth and mining waste engulfed dozens of miners and scavengers looking for Jade. Official reports say there were only two deaths, but residents claim at least 23 people were killed and 80 missing. This is not the first incident either; 3 people were killed in a December 2021 landslide, a 2020 landslide killed 163 people, and another in 2015 killed 113. (3)

This mine produces a lot of beautiful high quality crystals but corruption and mismanagement of the industry keeps the country economically underdeveloped and rife with poverty and environmental deterioration. 

“Since the country’s economy is not functioning well, many people come to Hpakant, hoping to make riches from rags. Dying during landslides becomes more common. I have to run for my life when there’s a landslide. People are betting on their lives while searching for gemstones at the dumpsite. These problems continue as long as there is mining. The gemstone mines in Myanmar only benefit a handful of people but not the local people like us.” Hpakant resident Ko Sai Han. (3)

Heavy Machinery in Myanmar

A 2016 report of Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Enterprise said there were 21,000 gemstone mines in Hpakant and Khamti. In Hpakant alone, there are more than 500 companies mining using heavy machinery. (3).

Illegal drugs such as heroin, methamphetamines and opium are easily available for the miners in Hpakant, allowing them to scavenge for long periods of time. Mining of precious stones in Myanmar makes up at least 10% of the country's exports and Gross Domestic Product (GPD) (4).

Min Min's child labour jade mining

In January 2021, the International Labour Association published an interview with a 13 year old boy called Min Min (above). 

Min Min is a 13 year old boy who scavenges for scraps of Jade in Hpakant in Kachin State. He left school in the third grade and dreamt of being a teacher. He lives with his uncle and aunt and works from dawn to 10pm looking for tiny scraps of stones.

“It depends on the size of the stones we find, but if it’s very big the mining company takes half of what we earn from us. We risk our lives for those stones. A man died last night. I saw it with my own eyes.” (5). Min Min’s father also scavenges for Jade, he has six siblings and he works so they can stay in school.

Locals of Hpakant say that the mining had destroyed the ecosystem. Lahtaw Kai Ring, a former Jade miner described it as “environmental destruction, they don’t see oysters in the stream anymore. Mountains have become valleys, valleys have become mountains. Rivers, streams and creaks have shifted into chaos.”

What are Ethically Sourced Crystals?

It is important to be aware of where your crystals are sourced, though it is very difficult to ascertain that information as the crystal industry is not regulated. Shops can claim to be sourced ‘ethically’ but there are no standards or testing in which they must undergo to describe themselves with that word. 

There is no such thing as an ‘ethically sourced’ crystal shop, unless they complete the whole process by themselves, and even then there can still be issues presented. 

There are so many steps between mining crystals, cutting, polishing, shipment and sale that provides so much room for error if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, it is impossible for most shops to be there every step of the way to ensure everything is absolutely perfect. 

Suppliers who label their crystals as ‘ethically sourced’ from countries of political turmoil or economic unrest without research into their origins do not understand that the term ‘ethicality’ goes far beyond fair wages and good working conditions.

Our store, Conscious Crystals NZ, chooses the label ‘consciously sourced’ as we do our absolute best to ensure we are as ethical as we can be. We only source from ‘ethical’ small family businesses and pay above market rates for our crystals. However, since we are not there every step of the way, there could have been something that went wrong, or we could have been lied to or the pictures staged. Unfortunately, the most we can do in this industry is our absolute best, but even that fails at times.

To ensure we have the best ethical approach as we can, we:

  • Extensively study, research and keep up to date with countries policies around ethical mining, worker equality and environmental restoration.
  • Pay above market rates to ensure that our miners and their families are getting paid what they deserve.
  • Ensure mines have restoration policies, meaning that mines are closed or left in safe conditions similar to natural land, bringing back key parts of the ecosystem like natural wildlife, plants and trees that allow the environment to thrive.






Ethical minefields: the dirty business of doing deals with Myanmar’s military

How A Beloved Gemstone Became A Symbol Of Environmental Tragedy In Myanmar

Jade mining disaster should be wake-up call for Myanmar government

Many Myanmar Mining Firms Fail to Name Politically Connected Owners: Global Witness

Myanmar amber traps scientists in ethical dilemma over funding war

Child labour in Myanmar’s jade mines is a deadly gamble

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